Friday, 16 October 2015

Company, Everyman Theatre, The Q

"Company" is a rich theatrical meal - looking at love, friendship and life through a distinctly New York lens, it revolves around one single man on his 35th birthday as he reflects on his friendships with five different married couples and three significant romantic relationships. The songs are teeming with witty observations ("It's the little things you do together"), reflective ambivalence ("Sorry-Grateful") and sometimes just plain flat out insanity ("Getting Married Today")

Everyman's production features a ridiculously talented ensemble cast under some spectacular, tight direction from Jordan Best. Leading the way is Jarrad West, who is the perfect sardonic observer - somewhere between engaged and amused by his friends and terrified as their various insanities manifest. His quest to understand relationships and himself is the thread that ties the show together, and he is a great audiences-eye-view character, as well as opening up in great voice for the yearning "Someone is Waiting", the cavalcade-of-bullshit-false-epiphany "Marry Me a Little" and the climactic, emotive "Being Alive".

Through the various couples, we get Jordan Best and Will Huang as a strangely functional-dysfunctional couple, showing off all kinds of worrying tics, from the constantly correcting one another, to the mutual addictions, to some hysterical physical comedy as the battle gets hands on. Max Gambale and Helen McFarlane are the domestic types, taking a mild walk on the wild side with a little reefer - McFarlane's stoned gabbling is hysterical, and Gambale plays both the wild fun with McFarlane, and the more sober side as they lean back towards being responsible parents. Phillipa Murphy and Tim Sekuless are the swinger-inner-city couple who wildly celebrate their divorce, but are happy to stay living together (with maybe the occasional play-around on the side) - both have an enthusiastic, open friendly nature, and both also do great stuff in the ensemble, Murphy as the lead chorister in "Getting Married Today", and Sekuless with great physical work during "Have I got a Girl for You". Riley Bell and Laura Dawson are the preppie types whose disastrous wedding morning we sit in on (as Dawson delivers the flat-out-best-version of "Getting Married Today" I've ever seen - capturing every bit of rambling psychosis with crystal clarity to hysterical effect, and with Bell providing stable, emotive, everloving support - there's a great sense that here is a sensible, loving guy that Dawson could not be without). Jerry Hearn and Karen Vickery are the older friends with money - aware they're slightly over the hill but still out in the nightclubs -  Hearn has some great silly-duffer dancing and a few moments of barely suppressed emotional pain at his not-quite-right relationship, while Vickery epitomises blousy, sophisticated, bitter self-hatred with a cocktail and a sneer.

As the three girlfriends, Amy Dunham is sweetly naive and also brings her A-game in wild insanity. I don't think I've previously seen her play a dumb blonde, but this one is dumb like a fox - fascinating, eccentric, bewildered but somehow getting where she's going anyway. Vanessa DeJaeger gives Marta some downtown cool - her "Another Hundred People" manages to be both bitter and yearning, and in her scene with Bobby, she has that great ability to make you feel like you don't know where her character's going to go next, but make you always delighted when you get there. Michelle Norris is practical, sweet, kind yet determined in her scene and her dancer's body unleashes wildly unconventional erotic moves during "Tick-Tock".

Jordan Best's direction is tight as a drum, keeping every emotional moment on track and swerving the scenes into each other in glorious mixes that can switch from laughter to drama in seconds. Tim Hansen's musical direction gives us a band that nails a tricky, complicatedly rhythmic score. James Batchelor's choreography has a great range of movements that feel both characterful and true. Michael Spark's set takes one lyric ("All those pictures up on the wall") and makes it glorious reality with a series of frames and squares, while keeping an open, adaptable space that can, and does, go anywhere within Manhattan's limits. Lighting by Kelly McGannon is spot-on, whether it's the small picture-frame moments or the green-zombie glow during "What would we do without you", and Steve Allsop's sound design works perfectly on opening night, barring one bumped microphone (that should be a standard, but ... honestly, with musicals, I've seen so many messily spotty sound cues as actors are picked up three bars into a song that it's almost turned me off seeing shows in their first week).

In short - this is a show I love. Done by a company I love. Full of actors I love. Directed by a director that I love. Is there any surprise that, yes, I love the everloving hell out of this show. Go see it.

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